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Bonnie Raitt and Jackson Browne Put Some Bite into the Dog Days of August
by Cook Young, August 1998

Copyright © 1998 Chuck Winans
 
Judging by the crowd attending the Bonnie Raitt concert at Jones Beach, the baby-sitter profession in Nassau County must have enjoyed quite a spike on August 14th. The audience was definitely an older, sedate group. This last observation may have had more to do with the fact that beer is not sold at the theater. Nevertheless, fortunately for all, Bonnie was spectacular – as was her old friend Jackson Browne, who opened the show.

Browne played a mostly acoustic set, highlighted by a couple of duets with Raitt and a slight foray out of his traditional angst-ridden original material into the "rehab" version of "Cocaine." After Jackson closed with a rollicking version of the obligatory "Running on Empty," backed by Raitt's band, Bonnie appeared, opening her set with "No Business," under a wash of red stage lights that were nearly as bright as her troves of crimson hair.

A couple of songs later, and after a spate of record promotion for Jimmie Vaughn's new CD (she did a lot of this throughout the evening for Vaughn and others), Bonnie delivered a blistering version of the Fabulous Thunderbird's tune "I Believe I'm In Love With You."

 
Jackson Browne
Copyright © Henry Diltz

Raitt mentioned that she had just wrapped up a performance at the Lilith Fair ("20,000 women in tanks tops," she told us. "If I was a guy, that's where I would have been."). She was in top form, her deep soulful vocals as mesmerizing as ever. And when she laid into "Spit of Love," off her new CD, Fundamental, she showed us that her sweet, fluent slide-guitar work is also right on the money.

If you're a guy – and, who knows, maybe if you're a gal – you can't help falling in love with Raitt as you watch her perform. She's seasoned, beautiful, bursting with Godly talent, and one of the most gracious people I've seen onstage. She spent much of the evening endlessly complimenting Jackson Browne, as well as her backup band (Rick Vito on guitar; John Cleary on keyboards and Gibson F5 mandolin; Ricky Fataar on drums; Hutch Hutchinson on bass). It was clear, however, that the brightest star at the Jones Beach theatre was located distinctly in her vicinity.

Toward the middle of her set, Bonnie treated the crowd to a couple more duets with Jackson Browne that included "Here Come Those Tears," the first song the pair ever recorded together. They bantered back and forth about their years in the business – almost but not quite giving the theater a coffee-club atmosphere – going all the way back to 1970 when Browne first invited Raitt to tour with his band. "It was me and thirteen guys on a bus for two-and-a-half months," Bonnie reminisced. "That's what made me the woman I am today."

Raitt's latter set included such highlights as a spirited rendition of "The Fundamental Things," that, not suprisingly, had a whole lot more kick than the studio version. Also worthy of mention was her heart-twisting performance of "I Can't Make You Love Me," beneath a perfectly moody glow of violet lights, that was easily as soulful as anything you might hear from a gospel choir at Sunday mass.

For her encore, Bonnie brought Browne back onstage for a third and final time (hey, who's complaining) to deliver a few final numbers, including Raitt's smash hit, "Thing Called Love," wrapping up the show a little after eleven p.m., late enough to make it a full evening but still early enough to get Suzie the Babysitter safely home to bed.

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